Saturday, August 09, 2003

Beer Blogging

I still haven't finished the post on coffee, so another short post on small ephemeral details of my life so I can say I posted something.

People who haven't been there don't always appreciate the extent to which Japan is a beer drinking country. Their most famous alcoholic beverage is saki or rice wine, but this isn't an everyday drink in the same way. They also drink a lot of whisky and a substantial amount of cognac, and their wine consumption has increased (from a very low base) in recent years, but the drink they use to wash their meals down (other than tea) is beer. In Japan, you won't find an eating establishment of any kind, including the humblest of railway station sushi restaurants or ramen noodle bars that will not also sell you a glass of beer if you ask for one. (Often this will be the only kind of alcoholic beverage they sell).

And Japanese beer is very good. It is like Australian beer in the sense that it is almost entirely lager, and is produced by a small number of large brewing conglomerates. Also like in Australia, the big brewers have in recent years introduced a variety of new but similar variants of their beers. (The equivalent of "Fosters Ice" and the like). But in general, Japanese beer is very good.

If I go to Colindale, a whole range of Japanese beers are available. At my local Sainsbury's, there is no such choice, but they do at least have Asahi Super Dry. (Their quotation marks). At the moment Sainsbury's have a special offer allowing customers to buy three four packs (ie 12 bottles) of any beer they sell in 330ml bottles for 10 pounds. At this price the Hoegaarden is selling out the moment they put it on the shelf (which is a shame because I like it) but the choice is still good. Last week I bought four bottles of Asahi Super Dry, four of Sainsbury's own brand Kolsch style lager (brewed exclusively for them at a microbrewery in Greenwich and recently voted the best lager brewed in Britain) and four bottles of Budweiser Budvar from Bohemia. In any event, I have just finished a bottle of the Asahi Super Dry. It is very dry. Very refreshing, also. I like it.

Friday, August 08, 2003

More photos

I have a couple of longer pieces in gestation, one of bars and cafes, and the other on the architecture of Santiago Calatrava. However, in the short term a couple more photos.

This was in Arles, and the top of it looked like a relatively standard and aging mermorial to the second world war. But underneath it we have something newer

This all makes you wonder, of course. Were Lieutenantss Tippett and McConnell the only Americans to die in Arles in the war? If not, was there something special they did to merit a memorial of their own, and if so, what was it? And why was this plaque not erected until May last year? Did it replace an earlier one. Were more details as to what happened in the war only found out recently? I don't know the answer. Of course the debt the French owe to the Americans from that war is so great that it can never be memorialised enough, and of course whatever has happened in the last year many French still realise this. But it raises more questions than answers.

Thursday, August 07, 2003

The Running Man

So, Arnold Schwarzenegger is running for governor of California in the recall election. Until a week ago, I was expecting this, as for a number of years Schwarzenegger has made no secret of his ambition to one day hold the job, and getting elected in this recall election is undoubtedly his best chance, as the number of votes required is small and the campaign is short. On the other hand, the media has been reporting for the last week that his advisors have been saying he was not going to run, mainly because his wife didn't want the negative publicity that would come out when his marital infidelities were publiciced. (If such a smear campaign is waged against him, this article from Premiere magazine will be exhibit A).

As has been pointed out, this candidacy leads the creators of headlines with both headaches (They had to fit "Schwarzenegger" into the headlines, and make sure they spell it correctly) but also great opportunities to use the names of his movies. (The word "Terminator" is clearly going to be used a lot in this election. "True Lies" has obvious relevance to politics. "Total Recall" is good given the situation. No doubt someone can think of a use for "End of Days", or some of the others). However, "The Running Man" is perhaps the most interesting. The title has obvious relevance. The movie was released in 1987, based on a Stephen King novel in which contestants compete in a television gameshow in a dystopian future in which the loser dies and the winner lives. In that movie Arnold's antagonist was played by professional wrestler Jesse Ventura. If Arnold gets elected, both the wrestler and the bodybuilder in that movie will have ended up state governors. I suspect bookmakers would have given me good odds on that at the time.

This is going to be fun. As to whether it will help California, who knows. Was it this weird when Ronald Reagan first went into politics?

Update: The fun has started. Lileks:

Listening to Arnold say “Collyvornia” during his press conference, I realized that his opponents can’t even mock his accent anymore. Let’s say they run an ad that features a musclebound lummox speaking in those dulcet Austrian tones; let’s say a reporter asks Arnie to comment. He could go dead serious, and say “Ah dunt beleaf in making fun uf an immigranz ahgcent.” Beat. Big toothy grin. “Unless Ahm togging about myszelf. Zen vut ze hell.”

Fifty thousand more votes, right there.

The whole thing is good. Go read.

Further Update: Daniel Weintraub of the Sacremento bee thinks Arnold is the front runner and may win. I am starting to think he is right. This could be weird.

Wednesday, August 06, 2003

The great thing about getting photos back is that you can post them to your blog, and get away with not writing so much

Time for some gratuitous holiday snaps.

The Pont du Gard in southern France. It's about 2000 years old. As I said, the Romans sure knew how to build an aqueduct. The key point is that height is everything, as gravity is the only force the Romans had for getting the water from its source to the city of Nimes. Although there is a river below the aqueduct which is a source of water closer to the city than the one being used, this is of no use as its water is not high enough for there to be a clear downhill route to the city. These days you would just use a mechanical pumping system of some sort, but these did not exist in Romans times, or at least not to a level of sophistication capable of moving this much water. Also, this fact means that a bridge carrying water is built much higher than a bridge carrying people. People can go uphill. Water cannot. (The lower level of the aqueduct was intended as a bridge for people to use, and it remains this to this day). The potential energy stored in the water due to its height is precious, and not to be squandered.

Unfortunately, I did not get a photograph showing me as well as all three levels of the aqueduct. Thus I must post two photographs.

Tuesday, August 05, 2003

Final post on Australia versus Bangladesh

Yes, the cricket blogging has been a bit heavy this week, due to the fact that I was catching up with games that occurred while I was away as well as those that were taking place as I was blogging. (Also, there is the fact that quite a lot was going on, especially regarding South Africa versus England).

In any event, Bangladesh's tour of Australia finished yesterday with the final one day international in Darwin. Some people had been wondering how large a score Australia would make when they got to bat first, and today we had an opportunity to find out. What we got was typical of games on this tour. A good score, but no records set. Bangladesh showed some fight at times, but couldn't keep the pressure consistently on the Australians.

As I said, Australia batted first, after winning the toss. There was no fiddling with the batting order today, presumably because everyone of importance got at least one bat in the first two games, and Australia just played normally. The openers scored a few runs before getting out, Gilchrist for 31 and Hayden for 42. The score was then 2/112 but then dropped to 4/114, with Martyn and Symonds both out cheaply. (Symonds in particular will be annoyed with himself, having been out cheaply in both innings he played in the series). Bangladesh were doing well, and the Australians were careful after this, but captain Ricky Ponting and Michael Bevan stopped the rot, Bevan scoring 57 and Ponting 101, the only century of the tournament. Australia ended up with a good but not great 7/254 off their 50 overs.

Judging by their scores in the first two matches, this was never likely to be enough. Once Bangladesh had slumped to 5/36, something really embarassing for the Bangladeshis looked possible. However, thanks mainly to 49 from Alok Kapali they managed to bat out most of their 50 overs, being finally out for 142 in the 48th, losing by 112 runs.

So, what can be said? In the tests and ODIs against Bangladesh, Australia did not set any records in terms of scores or margins of victory. However, the games were not close either. Australia were not quite at their best, but most players got in a good performance somewhere in the series. Bangladesh had their moments, but were when it came down to it several classes below the Australians. Much work needs to be done in Bangladesh, particularly in terms of creating a strong and competitive domestic competition of some kind.

As for the experiment of cricket in Australia's north, all reports are it came off well. Crowds were often close to 10000, which is decent considering the small sizes of the cities in question. The weather was good for cricket, the grounds were up to scratch, and the spectators apparently enjoyed the fact that the Australian cricket team had come to them rather than being many thousands of miles away. Things should be even better next season when Sri Lanka tour and Australia are playing a good side. On that occasion Australia will have to do more preparation. This year they played no warm up matches and had no training camp before the series. Do that against Sri Lanka and you are asking for trouble. How the Australians will fit this all into their crowded program and how much the players will complain remains to be seen.
It is hot

England simply doesn't cope well with extremes of weather of any kind. Many shops, workplaces and other buildings are not air conditioned, and this suddenly becomes a big deal. Those that are air conditioned have a sort of wimpy air conditioning that doesn't really cope in genuinely hot weather. (Nobody in Atlanta would stand for this, but this isn't Atlanta). Newsagents selling Coca-Cola and other cold drinks generally use these weird open refrigerator things that don't have doors on the front but are continually open, and which keep the drinks I suppose five degrees or so cooler than the ambient temperature. These are sort of okay in the weather that we have for most of the year, but when the temperature is over 30 degrees, they can't cope. Even when stores do invest in closed door refrigerators, they don't get the idea that the cold drinks need to be at the front. People buy the drinks from the front, and the refrigerators are then restocked by putting warm drinks at the front. If you want a cold drink you have to reach around the warm drinks to get a cold one from the back. However, somehow the refrigerators themselves don't seem to be up to scratch either, because even drinks taken from the back are not ice cold the way Australians would expect.

Why am I ranting like this. Well, yesterday evening I ran out of beer, and although I bought some more beer and brought it home with me this evening, it isn't cold yet. This shouldn't be a problem, because the little general store down the road has a liquor licence and sells beer (as would not be possible in Sydney due to the city's absurd liquor licensing laws), and surely they would have a can of beer in the refrigerator that I could buy from them. However, for some reason the beer in their refigerator was lukewarm. The shopkeeper told me he would get me a colder one from the refrigerator out the back, but somehow it was no better than tepid. I bought it and drank it anyway, but surely a can of beer that is actually cold isn't too hard a thing to manage. (Yes, it is my fault for forgetting to buy beer to refrigerate myself before today).

Another thing about the British is that they eat enormous numbers of chocolate bars. Every newsagent or corner store is full of an enormous choice of these, and they are inexpensive. They are also very nice: British chocolate is in my opinion made to recipes that taste better than chocolate in Australia. However, in hot weather you discover that British chocolate also doesn't cope well. You go into a shop and pick up a Kit-Kat, and discover that it is uncomfortably flexible. Australian chocolate may taste worse, but it is at least made to a recipe that makes it heat resistant.

Monday, August 04, 2003

Now we will see if I can be the first black gay female vice president

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successful and put your work first. Even
though you don't have as many tight personal
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What Political Diva Are You?
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I have a piece on Hansie Cronje over at Ubersportingpundit and a couple of short pieces over at the White Rose on the dangers of wording anti-terrorism laws too broadly and using "terrorism" as an excuse for removing openness and accountability.

Sunday, August 03, 2003

Cricket wrap up

Blogging has been light today. I had a very pleasant walk around parts of the East End, followed by plotting to take over the world, or at least Europe dinner at Samizdata HQ.

But, a quick cricket update. There isn't much to say about the rest of the South African innings. They took the score from 3/530 to a South African record of 6/682 before Smith finally declared. Not much to say. Dipenaar scored 92, and I thought that Smith would declare on his dismissal at 5/630 but no. South Africa kept batting. Wicketkeeper Boucher scored a fast and entertaining 68 off 51 balls. After his dismissal Smith batted on for even a few runs further, but the declaration eventually came. England were set 509 to make South Africa bat again. Neither this nor saving the match, were never likely, but England got off to an okay start, scoring 52 before the loss of the first wicket. However, this was that of their best batsman, Michael Vaughan, out caught by Pollock in slips yesterday evening to a terrible shot. Trescothick was out soon afterwards caught in the outfield by Adams to an equally bad shot, and Hussain and Butcher took the score to 2/129 at the close of play.

This morning the two batsmen resumed. Both of these players are capable of scoring a double century on a (very) good day, and while they were in it was possible for England supporters to have some (slight) hope that the match could be saved. They took the score from 2/129 overnight to 2/186. However, both were out and the score was then 4/208. It was then just a question of how long it took South Africa to finish the game off. Stewart was out for a duck in what may well have been his last test match, and McGrath, who is frankly out of his depth playing test cricket, was out for 13. It was then 6/208 and the match looked almost over. However, there was one little surprise. Andrew Flintoff started batting marvellously for England, scoring 142 off 145 balls, including 5 sixes and 18 fours. The tail stuck with him while he did this, and England supporters at least had something to cheer. I had turned off the TV when Hussain had got out, and I personally saw none of this, but Brian Micklethwait assured me later that it was a marvellous innings. Still, Flintoff was eventually the last man out when he was stumped off Adams attempting to hit another six. Great stuff, but still a loss by an innings and 92 runs. Ntini was again the best of the bowlers with 5/145 making it a fine ten for the match. The man of the match judges wimped out, giving the award jointly to him and Graeme Smith.

England have a lot of regrouping to do before the next test. Frankly, they need to figure out just who isn't up to it, who is a has been, and which new players should be selected to replace them. Personally I would drop Stewart, Hussain and McGrath, but it will be interesting to see what the selectors do. There are quite a few good plauyers in this England side: Vaughan himself, Trescothick, Betcher, Flintoff, Anderson. However, England have to really motivate them and make the most of them: not easy after these two matches.

Meanwhile, Australia played Bangladesh in the second one day international in Cairns. Not too differnt from the first. Bangladesh batted first (although they won the toss this time) and scored way too few runs. The wickets were shared around the Australian bowlers, they fell regularly, and Bangladesh were all out for 147. Australia shuffled the batting order to make sure everyone got a bat in the series - not a tactic I am fond of but at least they played a full strength side - and knocked off the runs easily. Symonds and Bevan opened the batting. Symonds was out early for 7 and the score was 1/17. Martyn joined Bevan, and was superb, eventually ending up with 91 off 51 balls. As it happened, Martyn had 90 with ten runs required and a century was possible, but there were no "team orders". Bevan scored a couple of fours, and Martyn missed out. Australia won the match with almost 30 overs to spare.

Still, great to see Martyn back. The Australian middle order is much stronger with him there, as he is a much classier act than either Lehmann or Love. Some journalists have suggested he might have to fight to get his place back, but I think this is ridiculous. The Australian selectors know how good he is. His last innings for Australia before this week was a brilliant 88 not out despite a finger injury in the World Cup final. It was overshadowed in that match by Ponting's innings, but selectors don't forget things like this. Martyn was deservedly man of the match, and Australia are 2-0 up and have won the series. The third match is in Darwin on Wednesday, and we are expecting another mismatch.
A truly sad day

Natalie Solent appears to have gone over to the dark side.

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